Guest post by Allen Kors
While some may be born with an innate knack for great leadership skills like confidence, communication, and creativity, I’d like to argue that great leaders are made not born. Even if you are born with certain traits and talents, only through carefully developing those skills and talents can you learn to master the art of leadership. Being a great leader takes practice.
To develop great people skills, potential leaders need to learn how to become better listeners, how to accept critical feedback in a constructive way, and how to best display empathy and patience with other team members and colleagues.
Confidence is also a huge part of leadership, and is a trait you can practice and hone over time. Confidence and self-esteem come from interactions where we (in our own eyes) behave positively. We can exercise this through becoming more decisive in our work and personal lives, learning more about our industry so we become knowledge experts, and building our own success rather than waiting for others to hand it to us.
Additionally, responsibility and integrity are very important leadership skills to have, although no one is born knowing how to be responsible. Integrity itself is also a choice. Becoming more responsible and acting with integrity (I believe the two go hand in hand) is achieved through accepting blame when something goes wrong, taking charge on solving difficult problems, and learning how to stay calm and troubleshoot when things do not go as planned.
In his book, “Leading the Life You Want,” author Steward Friedman lists three principles that all great leaders share: being authentic, living a balanced life, and a drive to innovate. I don’t think any one person is born with all three of these characteristics. Friedman’s skills are best developed, polished, and honed over time.
Acting with authenticity can be a difficult skill to master, especially in early adulthood, when many may not know exactly what they want from life, or have an idea about the type of person they want to become. In order to become an authentic person, one has to align their personal values with their own words and actions. I took a step in this direction when I left my job in investment banking to found a financial technology company that aims to make life better for student borrowers.
Greater work-life balance is a daily struggle, but a drive to innovate is something we strive for at Achieve Lending. In my own life, the lives of mentors and friends, and in the actions of the leaders we see in popular culture, we can easily derive that leadership is comprised of actions, a desire to learn, and ability to persevere. To a certain extent, leadership is learned, yes, but it is also a choice to begin that education in the first place.
Allen Kors is the Founder and CEO of Achieve Lending, the first ever search engine for education loans. His resume boasts time spent at the world’s premier financial firms, with positions in investment banking, private equity, angel investing, and consulting.
The Product Management Perspective: What are you doing to become a leader in your company? One of the ways product managers lead is by innovating. I found a great article by Steve Johnson on the importance of creating an internal innovation team. Check it out to get some great ideas for your business.